The U.S. fashion footwear market has been steadily growing at about +3% throughout 2019*, stronger than both apparel and accessories. While the industry continues to weather (pun intended) challenges—shifting consumer priorities, store closures, uncertainty around tariffs, and, well, the weather—I believe that the low-single digit growth can continue through Holiday 2019. Here’s what will stand out:
It’s (Still) All About Athleisure
While fashion (shoes, boots, sandals, slippers) remains the largest category year-to-date based on dollar sales, sport leisure (primarily sneakers) surpassed fashion in Q3. Our Future of Footwear report forecasts that sport leisure will overtake fashion to become the largest footwear category in 2020, so we are well on our way to that as we close out 2019. While fashion may re-emerge on top for Holiday in terms of sales volume, I expect that sales will be flat at best, while casual sneakers and skate shoes within sport leisure will lead the category to high single/low double-digit growth rates this season.
And Comfort is Cool
However, it won’t be all holiday blues for fashion footwear. There are some hot brands and items driving sales this year, such as Crocs clogs, Dr. Marten’s boots, and Birkenstock sandals – all up double digits during the retail fall season so far**. In addition to the comfort element, these have been extremely popular with younger consumers as they gravitate towards more utilitarian, gender neutral styles, and brands with strong heritage and authenticity stories. I expect that these items will perform well during the holiday season and will help the fashion category to offset losses in other areas, such as dress shoes.
‘Tis the Season for Creature Comforts
Consumers are into cozy, and cozy is important for Holiday. While the performance of cold/all weather boots and slippers is tied to weather, there is a “winter wonderland” aspirational aspect as well, and brands and retailers that play off of this in their marketing can minimize risk if the outside temperatures don’t cooperate. These categories have benefited from an infusion of fashion (and some athletic inspiration), and also the fact that function itself has become fashionable. Both performed well during Holiday 2018, which may cause growth rates to slow overall. Thanksgiving Weekend and Cyber Week will be especially important here.
Consumers Embrace Purposeful Purchasing
According to The NPD Group’s 2019 Holiday Purchase Intentions Survey, 30% of respondents stated they are “more likely to purchase from companies that support causes important to me” this holiday season. Social and environmental causes have quickly come to the forefront in fashion, and consumers have more choices than ever to shop responsibly this holiday. Multi-brand retailers like Nordstrom and Zappos have launched searchable platforms that curate sustainable, responsibly sourced, and charitable products. Resellers are touting the sustainability benefits of shopping secondhand, and direct-to-consumer brands with sustainability and social consciousness at their core are heavily leveraging digital channels to connect with their consumers and promote “better” gift giving.
*Source: The NPD Group/Consumer Tracking Service, 3/6/9 months ending September 2019 vs. last year
**Source: The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service, 3 months ending October 2019 vs. last year